Science and Technology

They Thought They Had the Energy

They Thought They Had the Energy

Emily Grubert on Texas, energy infrastructure, and the prospects for renewables

It’s not just climate and weather that make these events bad. A lot of the time, it’s really the intersection between unusual events—events that are outside design parameters—and the fact that on the infrastructure side we have a lot of issues with long-term deferred maintenance and obsolescence.

The Bioeconomics of Covid-19

The Bioeconomics of Covid-19

How, exactly, do we value a human life?

Both the left and the right perceive the need for data rapidly collected, centralized, analyzed, and deployed in preventing and arresting epidemics. But they diverge on how to do it. The left argues that public health, a fundamental public good, can only be accomplished by a well-funded, attentive state. The private sector cannot and does not—or should not—be interested. If health care were free and universally available, it would generate no profit.

Electric Cars: An Update

Electric Cars: An Update

Doors rattle, touchscreens melt

Which automaker “had to his credit,” in the words of Michigan senator Arthur Vandenberg, “more erratic interviews, more dubious quotations, more blandly boasted ignorance of American history, more political nonsense and more dangerous propaganda than any other dependable citizen that we have known”? Well, Henry Ford. But also, a hundred years later, Elon Musk.

“Chinese Virus,” World Market

“Chinese Virus,” World Market

The best safeguard against the novel coronavirus is the ability to voluntarily withdraw oneself from capitalism

What all these stories have in common is how unremarkable they are: this is contemporary global interchange at its most prosaic. Travel to and from countless other cities across Asia and Europe for business meetings and tourism follows a very similar pattern. Whereas the SARS outbreak was blamed on the peculiar, outlandish diets of the Cantonese people and then traveled through the elite cosmopolitan links between major Asian cities, the so-called “Wuhan virus” points to the utterly mundane way that countless nodal points around the world, including “second-tier” Chinese cities, are interwoven more tightly than ever across global circuits of commerce, education, and tourism.

Smeeze into Your Elbow!

Smeeze into Your Elbow!

I fear that we’re about to see a sharp decline in the number of TikTok videos being made by hospital employees

Once the euphoria of cancelled classes faded (and it faded extremely quickly), TikTok turned to the horror of being stuck with parents indefinitely, unable to see friends or talk to on-campus therapists, getting sent home early from expensive study abroad programs, and paying an in-person tuition rate for online classes—which, students and professors agree, will be a shitshow.

Decision Engines

Decision Engines

Behind him, a self-driving car approaches.

Scenario Three. It is a sunny day. On a one-lane road in upstate New York, a young boy is riding his bicycle toward a blind curve. A self-driving car rounds the corner carrying two passengers: a teenage girl and her boyfriend, both of whom attend the same high school. Although the self-driving car is driving at a safe speed, it cannot brake quickly enough to avoid hitting the boy on the bicycle. The car can either hit the boy, killing him instantly, or it can swerve off the road and crash into a large oak tree, sending the car’s passengers through the windshield and into the woods. Knocked unconscious by the impact, both passengers will die before an ambulance arrives. The boy will flee the scene.